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Author Topic: Need some help please! - many newbie questions, considering purchase of used RV  (Read 251 times)

Supra661

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Hello.

I'm brand new to this forum but wanted to ask some questions here... It seems that literally everything I googled about online ended up eventually bringing me to forum posts from here :) so it seems like probably the right place to just ask outright.

I do not yet own an RV. Have wanted for years but financial focus has had to remain on necessities.

Now, I'm a little better able to afford a little extra on the side but still wish to remain as frugal as possible. Kind of dip my toes in the water so to speak..

Anyway, I've run across an opportunity to possibly get a 1994 American Eagle 38A at a price I can afford. Here is what I know about it so far, according to the owner:
-The RV was bought roughly 4 years ago in 2014. At the time, it was in full working order. Lady says "she ran like a dream".
-From there, the RV as I understand it mostly sat unused. The seller says she never learned how to drive it, but also made reference to having fallen upon hard times.
- Seller used to start it periodically just to keep batteries up, etc. She stopped that, estimates about 1 year ago if I recall correctly. ...
- Now, seller is in tight financial bind and needs to sell the RV. She went to start it and found that even after replacing batteries, the engine won't start. Suspect it is the Allison transmission shifter or TCU connection(s) somewhere given that it had no prior fault...
- So, I'm seriously considering this RV, but would prefer to not end up having to sink many thousands more into it right away just to keep it from falling into any more extended state of disrepair.

Herein lies the questions I have.... Being new to RVs I am in unfamiliar territory. I'm very mechanically inclined and do all my own work on autos, but never delved into diesels and especially not big ones like on what amounts to a BUS chassis under this RV. The costs of even basic maintenance are unknown to me. I assume at a minimum, I will have to do the following as soon as humanly possible if I decide to purchase:

1) change oil and filters in engine, generator, and transmission. I'm a full synthetic guy usually but have no idea what diesel compatible synthetics run. Heck, I don't even know how much oil the Cummins takes or the Allison transmission OR the Onan generator for that matter!

2) Service braking system - I have no idea the condition of the brakes on this yet. Heck until I can get it started to pump up the pressure, I cant even release the brakes right? This concerns me because I am doubtful I have equipment sufficiently stout to handle lifting/holding an axle to facilitate removing a wheel, AND even if I did manage that I haven't ever played with "big boy" air brakes before so anticipate a learning curve. Thus, I feel like I will need to have a RV service shop do that first look at it... But there, too I have NO CLUE what kind of cost to expect for what could range from a simple inspection all the way to "whoa! you need to replace these!"... On that note, anyone know of a reputable shop in the Tampa bay area who does good work at reasonable prices, and maybe would be willing to let me watch them work so I can learn as they go?

3) Check and re-seal the Roof, windows, etc. --Given time constraints I may have to let someone else do that kind of job. Any estimate of what the cost (assuming the roof is only in need of basic maintenance and not peeling/bubbling/etc -- I won't buy the thing if I find that. Cant afford new rubber roof! I know that is *expensive*.

4) Tires? Heck, maybe this should have been #1... I haven't found out the age of the tires yet. This is something I intend to look at immediately. Thing is, even if the tires were close to new when the thing was parked, it sounds like it has mostly sat for 4 years now. From photos it looks like they were not covered/protected form the FL sun. I've got to assume that at bare minimum I would want to put new tires up front. I haven't a clue what size or load rating is required for this RV yet (anyone know this information??) - I've tried searching online but 1994 is so old no one goes back that far from what I can tell.

5) Safe at any speed until above are complete? ....This thing is 110 miles form where it will be parked if I get it. I believe I can get it to start and drive by troubleshooting the transmission electronics. I hope to just START it while inspecting it tomorrow, so I can verify air brakes, leveling system, and suspension in working order still. *Assuming* I manage starting it and determine is in working order, if I were to go ahead and buy this RV.... and making yet another ASSumption that I can get the transmission to work again with a little electrical debug sleuthing, HERE IS THE BIIIIIG QUESTION-- is there any "safe speed" at which I can travel the 100+ mile trip back with this RV without putting self or others on the road at risk? Any things I should do to improve safety chances?? (More assumptions --Tires looked at and determined to give appearance of good condition although anticipate them to have some age (at least 4 years old), and of course, belts, oils, fluids checked/inspected and topped off before heading away on such a trip home.  Given all the above assumptions, am I being foolish to think I could get into this RV and drive cautiously back home in it?  If not, does anyone know if AAA would cover towing of an RV I just bought but am unable to drive home to facilitate repairs? (I have premium membership and will add RV coverage if I decide to buy.)

I'm very much on the fence about this as a whole but as I mentioned it is a VERY good price and the condition appears in photos to be nearly immaculate inside, clean white leather, Corian counters, etc etc. Sooooo I am drooling at the prospect of getting this and then setting about making it roadworthy for a much longer trip later. The things I'm asking about above are, I think, the make-or-breaker items, particularly any large costs that would need to be immediately incurred to simply get the RV safely home...

ANY help or advice you all have is greatly appreciated! (Even if only to tell me "don't do it you fool! it's crazy!!")

Thanks in advance!

SeilerBird

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"don't do it you fool! it's crazy!!")

Old RVs are not cheap, they are money pits. You are looking at thousands of dollars and many hours of your time and when you get it all fixed up it will still be almost worthless. A 25 year old RV is not the way to go. The lady said it ran like a dream. Yep four years ago. Of course every RV seller thinks the RV is perfect.
I would like to apologize to anyone I have not yet offended. Please be patient and I will get to you shortly.
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Rene T

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This thing is 110 miles form where it will be parked if I get it.

Why are you looking at something like this if it's only going to be parked.  Maybe a tag-a-long trailer with a couple of slides would be much more comfortable.
Rene, Lucille & co-pilot Buddy
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Supra661

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Why are you looking at something like this if it's only going to be parked.  Maybe a tag-a-long trailer with a couple of slides would be much more comfortable.

Heehee that is not exactly what I meant :) Obviously the intent is to use it... But of course it must be parked/stored when not in use ;)


Isaac-1

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Maybe it is ok, maybe it is not, inspect, inspect, and inspect.  Get up on the roof, up close hands and knees look for any sign of leaks, and work your way down from there.  Sure the power train is a concern, but most RV's die from rot caused by water penetration.
2002 Safari Trek 2830

Supra661

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"don't do it you fool! it's crazy!!")

Old RVs are not cheap, they are money pits. You are looking at thousands of dollars and many hours of your time and when you get it all fixed up it will still be almost worthless. A 25 year old RV is not the way to go. The lady said it ran like a dream. Yep four years ago. Of course every RV seller thinks the RV is perfect.

OK so one vote for "don't do it you fool! It's crazy!!" - noted.

Would you still hold that opinion knowing that the same RV at a dealer, in poorer interior condition, sold for $24,000 just 2 years ago.... And I'm looking at scooping this up for well under $5K? And I intend to test/inspect/review all major systems and checklist items and ensure they're working before I make an offer? (Of course I can't fix the transmission no start prob before buying or this seller is likely to double or even triple the asking price.)

My challenge of course is that a newer RV is essentially untouchable for me at this time, and I really would like to have one to use before my kiddo grows too old and could no longer join on a road trip due to college, employment, etc. Maybe that is just a pipe dream.

Supra661

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Maybe it is ok, maybe it is not, inspect, inspect, and inspect.  Get up on the roof, up close hands and knees look for any sign of leaks, and work your way down from there.  Sure the power train is a concern, but most RV's die from rot caused by water penetration.

Noted. Yes, I definitely intend to get up on the roof, and check for damage/soft spots/cracks/bubbles/tears/etc. Will sniff for any musty odors. Will scooch underneath and look over chassis. Will test electrical (generator/12V/120V) functions. Will check air suspension  and air system overall for proper pressures and no leaks etc. Will check water/plumbing/pump/tanks. As well as appliances, power slide for generator, power steps, ventillation fans, AC, heat (if propane is available), toilet functionality... Whole checklist before any serious consideration of purchase, but sounds like all systems work. Only one way to find out for certain though.

SeilerBird

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OK so one vote for "don't do it you fool! It's crazy!!" - noted.

Would you still hold that opinion knowing that the same RV at a dealer, in poorer interior condition, sold for $24,000 just 2 years ago.... And I'm looking at scooping this up for well under $5K? And I intend to test/inspect/review all major systems and checklist items and ensure they're working before I make an offer? (Of course I can't fix the transmission no start prob before buying or this seller is likely to double or even triple the asking price.)
I don't care what it was a few years ago. Even if it was free it would not be a bargain, it would be a money pit. Right off the bat you need new tires, that is $3k. The roof will need to be resealed and that is $2k. And that is just the beginning.
I would like to apologize to anyone I have not yet offended. Please be patient and I will get to you shortly.
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My portfolio:
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My Grand Canyon shots:
https://photos.app.goo.gl/Nc1AT8tQp25wJwfm1

SpencerPJ

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I don't know if diesel is same as gas, but sitting that long might start with a complete system fuel drain, tank, lines, and everything.  Sitting is not good.  That said, I understand the want to RV.  We had a 83 class C from 2000-2010, called it the rolling turd.  Best times of our life with kids growing up, never failed us.  It certainly helps that you are mechanically inclined.  :))  This is a gamble, might play out good, might not.  I certainly would get running etc, prior to any renovations, tires, anything like that.  Plan to get it usable for local in-state fun, and if it plays out, further.

Optimistic Paranoid

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I noticed that you didn't tell us anything about yourself.  Married?  Kids?  How many people will be in this RV?  Why, exactly, have you decided that you need/want a big Class A?

What sort of plans do you have?  One annual two week vacation, plus the occasional long weekend, not too far from home?  Or long trips to distant destinations?

What are your current vehicles?  Do you have something that could pull a travel trailer?

My personal opinion is, unless you are full-timing, a trailer and separate tow vehicle make a heck of a lot more sense than a motorhome.  Less maintenance expense for the trailer, less of your irreplaceable free time  spent maintaining it, and the tow vehicle is far more useful.  Motor vehicles deteriorate a surprising amount just sitting.  Rubber deteriorates, mice and other vermin get in and chew up electrical wires, etc.

The above free advice is unconditionally guaranteed to be worth every penny you paid for it, or your money will be refunded in full!
Rule #1 for Boondockers: DON'T FEED THE VULTURES!
My Body is a Temple!  Ancient, Crumbling, Probably Cursed...
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Optimistic Paranoid

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I don't know if diesel is same as gas

Things actually GROW in diesel fuel.  See:

http://www.mycleandiesel.com/pages/ProblemMicrobialGrowth.aspx
Rule #1 for Boondockers: DON'T FEED THE VULTURES!
My Body is a Temple!  Ancient, Crumbling, Probably Cursed...
I don't like to make advanced plans.  They cause the word "PREMEDITATED" to get used in court!

Gary RV_Wizard

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I wouldn't quite call it crazy, but there are a lot of risks. I personally might consider buying it if the price was right, but I have skills and experience with RVs that give me a leg up. 

You've cited a number of things that might be bad and all RVs and diesel pusher bus chassis are super expensive if you have to pay somebody else. Sometimes even DIY.   Tires, for example, run $400-$800 each in those sizes.  An oil change is probably 18-24 quarts and the various filters can run anywhere from $20 to $100 or more. And it has a lot of filters, e.g. two for fuel, 1 for air intake, 1 oil, 1 hydraulic, one for the chassis air system (actually a dryer cartridge), plus air/fuel/oil for genset.  Roof probably needs at least a touch-up of the lap sealant (caulk).

The engine non-start is probably not serious but until you get into it, who knows?  A diesel injector pump for that rig probably costs upwards of $3000 plus labor. It should be fine, but suppose it isn't? And rear engine, rear radiator diesels are difficult to work on simply because access is so poor.
Brakes on those chassis are rarely a problem but may be rusted (frozen) in place and need some penetrating oil spray to get loose. However, rust in the air system can occur of the air dryer wasn't serviced and the air tanks not drained periodically, so again there is a potential for serious problem even though the odds are they are basically ok.

Safe to drive?  unknowable until you tear into it, but if it can be driven above 1015 mph, it's probably safe to 50.

"Reasonable price" doesn't go along with either "RV" or "diesel pusher bus chassis" repairs. Labor rates are typically well north of $100/hr and sometimes $150.
Average retail for a coach like this is probably $10k-$15k in running condition (which this is NOT).  The American Eagle is a premium brand coach, however,  and nicely kept/restored models of that vintage can go to $20k or more.
« Last Edit: November 09, 2018, 08:08:44 AM by Gary RV_Wizard »
Gary
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Gary Brinck
Summers: Black Mountain, NC
Home: Ocala National Forest, FL

Supra661

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I noticed that you didn't tell us anything about yourself.  Married?  Kids?  How many people will be in this RV?  Why, exactly, have you decided that you need/want a big Class A?

What sort of plans do you have?  One annual two week vacation, plus the occasional long weekend, not too far from home?  Or long trips to distant destinations?

Divorced years ago, but moved on and living together with someone anew now for last 5-ish years. Have 1 child, now 14. Also have two nieces (16 and 17) who undoubtedly would want to go on trips whenever possible. Additionally, my pops is still around at 83, but health has declined due to cancer battle (damn chemo! Can't live with it.... or without.). An RV like this would enable comfortable transport to go see family up north and bring my dad along to visit. Long car rides are probably too much for him now, as would be a plane trip I think.

Also have two large dogs who love to travel... So an RV like this would be used to transport as many as 6 people and 2 dogs on maybe 1 long trip a year, about 3K miles round trip, and occasional local weekend trips closer to home might also include variations such as my sister and/or mom coming along at times, within reasonable limits of capacity...

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What are your current vehicles?  Do you have something that could pull a travel trailer?

I own a VW CC and a Ford Fusion. Neither could haul a trailer of sufficient size for the above.

Quote
My personal opinion is, unless you are full-timing, a trailer and separate tow vehicle make a heck of a lot more sense than a motorhome.  Less maintenance expense for the trailer, less of your irreplaceable free time  spent maintaining it, and the tow vehicle is far more useful.  Motor vehicles deteriorate a surprising amount just sitting.  Rubber deteriorates, mice and other vermin get in and chew up electrical wires, etc.

Hence the hesitation at something that has sat 4 years, for sure. ...But travel trailer as described cannot have passengers inside while in motion. That then limits capacity to size of tow vehicle and would prevent me from including my dad while he's still here on this earth with us.

Quote
The above free advice is unconditionally guaranteed to be worth every penny you paid for it, or your money will be refunded in full!

Thank you!! Appreciate it.

Supra661

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I wouldn't quite call it crazy, but there are a lot of risks. I personally might consider buying it if the price was right, but I have skills and experience with RVs that give me a leg up. 

You've cited a number of things that might be bad and all RVs and diesel pusher bus chassis are super expensive if you have to pay somebody else. Sometimes even DIY.   Tires, for example, run $400-$800 each in those sizes.  An oil change is probably 18-24 quarts and the various filters can run anywhere from $20 to $100 or more. And it has a lot of filters, e.g. two for fuel, 1 for air intake, 1 oil, 1 hydraulic, one for the chassis air system (actually a dryer cartridge), plus air/fuel/oil for genset.  Roof probably needs at least a touch-up of the lap sealant (caulk).

The engine non-start is probably not serious but until you get into it, who knows?  A diesel injector pump for that rig probably costs upwards of $3000 plus labor. It should be fine, but suppose it isn't? And rear engine, rear radiator diesels are difficult to work on simply because access is so poor.
Brakes on those chassis are rarely a problem but may be rusted (frozen) in place and need some penetrating oil spray to get loose. However, rust in the air system can occur of the air dryer wasn't serviced and the air tanks not drained periodically, so again there is a potential for serious problem even though the odds are they are basically ok.

Safe to drive?  unknowable until you tear into it, but if it can be driven above 1015 mph, it's probably safe to 50.

"Reasonable price" doesn't go along with either "RV" or "diesel pusher bus chassis" repairs. Labor rates are typically well north of $100/hr and sometimes $150.
Average retail for a coach like this is probably $10k-$15k in running condition (which this is NOT).  The American Eagle is a premium brand coach, however,  and nicely kept/restored models of that vintage can go to $20k or more.

Thanks! Appreciate the info! -Yes I have been wondering what kind of access there is to the engine on this. have to lift the bed up from what I can tell.

That is a LOT of oil and filters you noted. Wow. Will need to seriously consider cost of that over time too. Didn't think about the air dryer either, saw it in the owner manual I downloaded but didn't note to check that. Thanks! Will have to see if it shows signs of being properly maintained or is in disrepair.

Supra661

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Things actually GROW in diesel fuel.  See:

http://www.mycleandiesel.com/pages/ProblemMicrobialGrowth.aspx

Wow now that is new to me, never thought of this being a potential issue. Any suggestions on ways to check for this safely? I have an inspection camera USB/wifi thingy but don't think it would handle fuel very well if it inadvertently submerged.

Supra661

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I don't know if diesel is same as gas, but sitting that long might start with a complete system fuel drain, tank, lines, and everything.  Sitting is not good.  That said, I understand the want to RV.  We had a 83 class C from 2000-2010, called it the rolling turd.  Best times of our life with kids growing up, never failed us.  It certainly helps that you are mechanically inclined.  :))  This is a gamble, might play out good, might not.  I certainly would get running etc, prior to any renovations, tires, anything like that.  Plan to get it usable for local in-state fun, and if it plays out, further.

That is do-able once I get it back closer to my own home, but doubtful before that. of course, if fuel is bad I wouldn't be able to start it anyhow, therefore unable to check air systems and hydraulic leveling... So wouldn't buy for sure then.

Gary RV_Wizard

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Diesel "algae" can be a problem in humid climates, which is possibly the case here with a Florida coach.  It clogs the intake screen on the fuel lift pump and/or the primary fuel filter and the engine stalls from lack of fuel.  If the growth isn't too thick, some biocide and a few primary filter changes takes care of it.   If really bad, it may be more practical to pump the contaminated fuel out and cleanse it in a filtering machine, or simple dispose of it (but that's not cheap either).   Just one more of the many potential things that might go wrong on you.

Moisture is necessary for the "algae" to grow, and a coach that sits for long periods with a half-empty tank is more susceptible than one with a full tank. Note: Biologists will insist the growth is NOT an algae, but that's academic.  It is a living microbe that literally grows in a solution of petroleum and water.

I've kept a diesel motorhome in Florida for 16 years with no fuel problems but always used a biocide in the fuel when it sat in my yard over the winter with limited or no use. And I kept the tank full, which reduces the water condensation in the tank.   
Gary
--------------
Gary Brinck
Summers: Black Mountain, NC
Home: Ocala National Forest, FL

Optimistic Paranoid

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Wow now that is new to me, never thought of this being a potential issue. Any suggestions on ways to check for this safely?

Sorry.  I discovered this info while researching "gas vs diesel" while I was looking for a truck.  I finally decided against diesel, personally, so I don't know how you would check for it.

If I were in your shoes, I would hire a professional diesel mechanic to conduct an inspection.  I'm sure someone like that could give you a pretty good estimation of whatever is wrong and what it would cost to fix it.  If that was an acceptable situation, then I would follow up with an inspection by an RV technician of the house systems, electrical, propane, the air conditioning, the refrigerators, and so on.

Rule #1 for Boondockers: DON'T FEED THE VULTURES!
My Body is a Temple!  Ancient, Crumbling, Probably Cursed...
I don't like to make advanced plans.  They cause the word "PREMEDITATED" to get used in court!

Isaac-1

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I would not worry too much about the fuel condition, though I might look for a fuel polishing service in the area that could filter the fuel for you (google shows a number of them in the Tampa area).        Fuel polishing is common in that climate for smaller diesel powered boats that sit up for months.
2002 Safari Trek 2830

Supra661

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Welllll I went and looked. And passed on it with a huge thumbs down...

The photos provided to me must have been from when it was bought 4 years ago. I got there and the paint was faded, interior was dirty, signs of massive water intrusion in roof and walls... generator wouldnt start. Engine wiring was so corroded in some areas that wires literally fell off when touched. I took time to repair them before I left so as to not have caused any damage myself.

That thing is probably the poster child for what not to do to an RV after buying it.

Anyhow, thank you all for your advice and input. I really appreciate the information you provided. It was helpful!



SeilerBird

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  • Good things are illegal immoral or over 1000 watts
"don't do it you fool! it's crazy!!")

Old RVs are not cheap, they are money pits. You are looking at thousands of dollars and many hours of your time and when you get it all fixed up it will still be almost worthless. A 25 year old RV is not the way to go. The lady said it ran like a dream. Yep four years ago. Of course every RV seller thinks the RV is perfect.
Welcome to the wonderful world of RV shopping. Every single seller will tell you the RV runs and drives and looks perfect, even if it is smoldering pile of poop. You gotta kiss a lot of toads before you find your prince. Reading the ads is fun but no substitute for actually going out and looking and driving as many RVs as you can.
I would like to apologize to anyone I have not yet offended. Please be patient and I will get to you shortly.
Favorite 2017 shots:
https://photos.app.goo.gl/y0HbMU5KYa2hx02E3
My portfolio:
https://goo.gl/photos/Cx4SaYhGfYFShSty7
My Grand Canyon shots:
https://photos.app.goo.gl/Nc1AT8tQp25wJwfm1

Isaac-1

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Ah the world of selective photography, I have been there when RV shopping
2002 Safari Trek 2830